UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Film Review: “Hidden Figures”


Photo courtesy of Val in Sydney via Flickr.com

Opening Thought: A film is only as good, or as great, as the people who work to bring it to life. In the case of “Hidden Figures,” the people behind this must be some of the finest people ever to unite in the pursuit of filmmaking. With that said, I present to you my review on “Hidden Figures.”

Synopsis: Three female black mathematicians (Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae) provide crucial calculations for NASA’s space race against the Soviets, all while dealing with the racist and sexist assumptions of their white superiors and co-workers. Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, and Jim Parsons co-star in this adaptation of the book of the same name by Margot Lee Shetterly.

Review: “Hidden Figures” is a sweet and well-done film, treated with the utmost respect to the real-life Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson. Just imagine being a brilliant black woman in 1960s America, and the things one could do with a mind like any one of these three women. The film pays homage to these “hidden figures,” and it does so with class. Henson gives the best performance of her career quite easily in the role of Katherine G. Johnson, with Spencer coming in a close second, hence her Best Supporting Actress nod.

Also worth mentioning, veteran actress Dunst made her return to the big screen after a long hiatus, giving a solid performance as the prejudiced boss blocking Dorothy’s ascension to a promotion. However, Parsons deserves kudos as the true antagonist of the film, playing a racist, sexist NASA manager who hates the fact that Katherine is smarter than he is. A truly annoying, pretentious snake of a character. Well done, Parsons.

Throughout this film, there are times you will get angry, then times when you will laugh, then times when you will become enraged, before coming to the realization that “Hidden Heroes” would have been far more appropriate title. These three brilliant women, all of whom are still alive, did what many of their white counterparts could not do. That is not to say they were incapable, as sexism was just as prevalent in this decade as racism was. But rather these women, either by natural aptitude or extreme determination, were gifted with a level of brightness that eluded many—especially people, and more so women, of color.

“Hidden Figures” should be rejoiced for telling the real-life story of these women. And, perhaps, 50-100 years from now, they will not be considered hidden, but held up high, for all to see, in the light with both who came before and those still yet to come.

“Hidden Figures” was directed by Theodore Melfi on a screenplay co-written by Melfi and Allison Schroeder. Since its release, “Hidden Figures” has been hailed as one of the ten best films of 2016 by critics and audiences, and has collected a plethora of award nominations, including three Oscars and two Golden Globes.

If you’re a racist or a sexist, then approach this film with extreme caution. It may very well challenge your foolish and barbaric ideologies to the point of no return. Then again, the mind of the hateful and ignorant is a stubborn one. Nevertheless, you will still be annoyed at the non-white-non-male genius that unfolds in this film for 127 minutes. Enjoy!
The Critic’s Choice: 4.5 out of 5 stars